By:  LINDSEY O'NEILL, ESQ.

According to the latest press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, suspects have been charged with data breach crimes in the largest alleged credit and debit card data breach ever in the United States.  Apparently, data related to more than 130 Million credit and debit cards was stolen by the criminals when they hacked into the computer systems of major retailers and payment card processors.  Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, Fla., "and his co-conspirators, used a "sophisticated hacking technique called an "SQL injection attack," to break past a computer system's firewall to gain access to what would otherwise be secure information.

Ever used your debit card at 7-11?  Well, then you're card information might have been stored there.  Apparently, 7-Eleven was one of the retailers targeted by the hackers.  The hackers also targeted Heartland Payment Systems, a New Jersey-based card payment processor.  When an electronic payment card is used, the card numbers are stored electronically... the information is then transmitted to your account so that funds can be withdrawn according to the payment made.  Companies are required by various state and federal laws to implement sophisticated technologies protecting the safety of your card information.  However, a hacker's job is to find ways around these protections.

Does this mean your financial information isn't secure?  Well... the answer is probably more like the answer about how safe it is to drive a car on the road.  There are a lot of rules and protections in place so that you don't get into an accident on the road, but that doesn't mean rules don't get broken sometimes.  Same thing here sort of.  The payment systems are equipped with a variety of technologies to keep your financial information safe on the electronic superhighway, but that doesn't mean the rules don't get broken sometimes.

The best thing to do is to review your financial accounts regularly for any errors or disputed activity.  Contact law enforcement if you believe your financial accounts have been hacked or you've been a victim of identity theft.

For more on these topics, check out LawInfo's Free Legal Resource Center or contact an attorney today.

Read the Department of Justice press  release by clicking here.

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